Spontaneous Combustion of Coal

Spontaneous Combustion of Coal

The subject of spontaneous ignition of coal in piles is one which interests all water departments who are compelled to handle this substance as fuel and also fire departments in whose jurisdiction are coal yards or plants which use large amounts of coal in producing steam for their manufacturing processes. In both instances the dangers from coal fires and the measures to be taken to prevent them are of vital interest.

Mr. Hood’s carefully prepared article on this subject which leads this week’s issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING will be found of great assistance to all interested in the subject of fire prevention in coal piles. He shows that the relative danger of spontaneous combustion is much greater in the storage of large quantities of coal than in the smaller coal piles. He also brings out the fact that the small sizes of coal, and especially bituminous, are more subject to spontaneous combustion than the larger varities of anthracite. He also emphasizes his contention that the presence of sulphur or other volatile content is not, as is often supposed, the most important consideration of the condition of spontaneous combustion, but that the natural temperature of the coal at the time of piling is more important and that other dangerous conditions which tend to increase susceptibility to spontaneous combustion are breakage in handling, freshness of the coal and improper screening before storage. The paper will be found of much value to both fire chiefs and to superintendents of water works who use coal as a fuel.

An excellent method of Fire Prevention teaching is that adopted by the Fire Prevention Bureau of the Pennsylvania State police department. Chief C. M. Wilhelm, of the bureau has adopted the method of instructing the school children of the state by radio. The advantage of this system lies in the fact that many of the schools in the state have installed radio sets, and thus the instruction which is broadcasted by the bureau is a practical help to the teachers. It includes not only general Fire Prevention subjects but also discusses the methods ot fire drill and other details which will assist teachers in bringing home Fire Prevention lessons to their scholars. Several of the teachers have already notified the bureau of the benefit which this system has been to their scholars and the help that it has been to them in their instruction on the subject. This plan could profitably be adopted in other states.

Chief John J. O’Brien, of the Indianapolis, Ind., fire department, was slightly injured at a two alarm down town fire a few days ago, which was confined to the basement in the Army and Navy Underselling Store. The chief’s injury was a cut over the eye suffered in a fall getting through an opening leading to the basement. Chief O’Brien tied a handkerchief around his head and resumed his duties. A few moments later his driver approached him to ask how serious the wound might be. Pushing him aside, the chief replied “Oh, the devil with that! Lets get the fire out first and see to that later!” This caused a round of laughter from those nearby.

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION OF COAL.

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION OF COAL.

In his monthly report for July President Edward Atkinson, of the Manufacturers’ Mutual, calls attention to a too often unconsidered hazard originating in the spontaneous combustion of bituminous coal. The accumulation of gas in the heart of a pile of coal, under sufficient pressure, will often cause an explosion, as soon as the protecting mass of partially or fully coked coal outside the centre of combustion has been pierced by pick or shovel. He recommends the covering of bituminous coal with a roof or shed, and, considering the fact that the igniting point of wood is lower than that of coal, says there should never be wooden posts within the pile of coal, neither should the coal rest upon wood at any point. Mr. Atkinson also submits the following suggestions made by F. E. Cabot, inspector of the Boston Board of Fire Underwriters, calling attention to a method of detecting the heating of coal: “Place in the coal pile iron pipes approximately ten feet apart in each direction, these pipes to stand vertically in the pile. The pipes should be placed so that the wires can be run along on their tops above the coal, and, assuming that the extreme width of the pile did not exceed fifty feet, this would call for four rows of pipes. The wires running along each row would he attached to a suitable gong and annunciator, and the thermostats would be placed inside each pipe in physical connection with the metal so as to be heated whenever the pipe became warm. In this way, whenever the coal rose in temperature sufficiently to beat any one of the thermostats, the bell would ring, and the annunciator spot for this line would show. Having located the line in which the heating occurred, it is a very simple matter to locate the exact pipe heated, by starting at one end and disconnecting the thermostats until the circuit is again opened, and the bell stops ringing. This will enable the manager or superintendent to locate heating in the coal pile before any considerable amount of coal has got on fire, and to place the source of heat within a radius of ten feet, without the necessity of digging down into the pile.”

The funeral services for Henry D. Purroy, formerly a fire commissioner of New York city, and brother of Chief Purroy, of the city fire department, took place at the church of St. Francis Xavier, West Sixteenth street. Manhattan, last week. It was attended by many prominent men of New York and Brooklyn, Among these were Secretary Leary, Chief Clerk Shields. Deputy Chiefs Kruger, Gooderson. Burns, Devanny, Dunne. Fire Marshal Freel. Battalion Chief Ross, and abont a dozen captains. Chaplain McGronin, of the Brooklyn fire department, was in the sanctuary.